It was the name Eggsentric that first got my attention. Although it was unlikely to be a restaurant specialising in mysterious egg recipes, I’m attracted to anything that smacks of eccentricity and when next in Whitianga, I decided to check it out.
A small boat took me across the estuary to Ferry Landing and I walked the 1km to Flaxmill Bay where, close to the water, the restaurant is located.
Twenty years ago, Dave Fowell and his wife Denise sold their free-range chicken and egg farm and bought an ailing cafe adjacent to one of the loveliest bays on the Coromandel. No one now seems to remember its old name.
Dave is a fun-loving, larger-than-life sort of chap, and for 17 years he filled the cafe he’d named Eggsentric with lively art works, quirky ideas, good food, music and, no doubt, a great deal of laughter.
Now he’s retired and his son Sam, with partner Alesha, are carrying on Eggsentric’s reputation for good food and entertainment. The couple are also beginning to upgrade the gardens and buildings but assured me they’d be keeping the character Dave had created.
“The whole outfit is him in a nutshell,” said Sam. “We’ll make changes but keep the essential character. Why change something that works?”
Eggsentric has a sense of place. It embodies the inspiration, laissez-faire attitude, and easy friendliness typical of the Coromandel. From the outside it looks like a house (it probably was at some stage) and it still has a homely, rustic ambience enlivened with local art work and colourful details but with few pretentions.
The gardens are what I term ‘loose’. Locally made statues, flower gardens, and table and chairs set under shady oak trees blend in with the odd wheel barrow, a small dinghy and a couple of pick-up trucks loaded with the paraphernalia of work in progress.
I loved the uncontrived environment; so, it seems, do the locals. A large family group lounged around the tables in the shade; they looked as if they’d settled in for the hot afternoon and one mum told me that when it cooled off they’d just pop across the road for a swim at the beach.
In the playground area numerous kids were jumping around like fleas. Sam is a chip off the old block. Like his father, he started life in a very different occupation.
He was a commercial fisherman before he took up the restaurant business four years ago, first training with his father and now fully in charge. He has become a chef and a baker. All the food is made on the premises and whenever he can he uses artisan ingredients that he sources around New Zealand. Of course, fish is a favourite offering.
The lunch menu includes seafood chowder, scallops on corn hot cakes, Thai fish cakes, fresh local fish with lemon cream sauce and crumbed mussels. There are more fish dishes on the dinner menu. From the hands of a fisherman who morphed into a chef, it is no wonder the kaimoana is as good as anywhere on the Coromandel.
Other dishes – eye fillet, wild venison, kumara and pumpkin tagine among them – are just as enticing. Sam keeps his menus simple and well-balanced and patrons talk about the food with enthusiasm.
I was also enthusiastic about the coffee, which in restaurants away from town centres can be a variable experience. But the coffee at Eggsentric was wonderfully aromatic and expertly made from freshly ground beans roasted at Miller’s roastery in Auckland.
In a small room at the back of the cafe, Alesha runs a boutique deli-shop selling specialty preserves and sauces, ice cream made to Dave’s recipe, Sam’s popular homemade breads and her own botanical creams and cosmetics.
Eggsentric is open for breakfast lunch and dinner but closed on Mondays during the summer and for five months during the winter. That’s also very Coromandel!
Win a $100 voucher for Eggsentric
Sam and Alesha have kindly offered a $100 voucher to be enjoyed at their cafe.
To be in to win, enter here before 5 April, 2019.